I’ve always wanted to tell the kind of story that is real, earnest, honest, not rose-colored or censored. I wanted to tell the kind of story that you can’t get in a headline, but rather the secrets you hear on the sidelines. The real, authentic, vulnerable true story that is only shared within the bond of love and trust. I finally found it.
It involves war, tragedy, loss.
It radiates hope, courage, and love.
It is a love story above all.
Against the backdrop of hate, my story illuminates with love.
It all starts with a family of four: a boy and a girl and their parents. The boy is Tom, or as I called him: Opa. He was my Grandfather, a German immigrant who was stubborn and sweet. He spoke impeccable English in hushed German tones.
Before he became my Grandfather, he was a child in a country haunted by The Great War, or World War 1 as we know it. His family lived in a large apartment in Berlin, Germany and he witnessed the Nazi party’s rise to power.
Opa told me snippets of his family history while I was growing up, and I was always fascinated. I can still hear his German accent in my memories. As a young girl, I was mesmerized by the love story between him and my Grandmother.
Grandmother grew up in Kansas, the youngest of 4, spoiled as the only girl. When she and Opa met, she was engaged to another man. My two sisters and I never heard any details about this story until we spent the night with my Grandmother on the evening after Opa’s funeral. It was a slumber party to keep her company, and to relive a little of our girlish youth. Grandmother told us that the “other boy’s” name was Archie and that she certainly had made the right decision to marry Opa.
Several years later, after being the primary caregiver for my Grandmother who had declined in health, I convinced my parents that she needed to live closer to them. I had a young child with plans to expand my family and we were not guaranteed to always live close to my Grandmother. We needed to move her to the stableness of my parents, so she could be near family, her son is my Dad. We spent hours cleaning and packing for the move. One day my husband and I found a box in Grandmother’s office.
It was a box of letters.
The letters date as far back as November, 1939 and showcase the correspondence within my Grandfather’s family as he emigrated to the United States, letters of courtship from Opa to Grandmother, letters between the families on either side of the ocean, and letters of news of loved ones near and far. I was enthralled. I read handfuls of letters, crying over the news of those who had died long before I was born as if it was real time.
It turns out that my Grandfather left me a legend. As someone with a writer’s heart, I have always wanted to tell a story, but I never had one that was good enough. Now I did. I had the earnestness, the true love, the vulnerability. These letters slowed the moving process to a crawl before my family evicted me out of the box and promised that we would go through the letters later.
Now my Grandmother has joined Opa in heaven and I begin my journey through their story.
My blog will share that journey. My husband has volunteered himself as my researcher. I will journey through these letters in chronological order, read documents and articles about the world around that time.
I will show you the letters and give you the information I learned, and I’ll share with you how it has moved my soul. You, my reader, have a chance to experience this story of love firsthand. The love that is shown through multiple generations, between strangers and family.
It is a story that brings me hope. Light in the darkness.
It all starts with a little boy and his sister, his Jewish mother, and agnostic father in Berlin.
Somehow broken engagements, true love, Albert Einstein, Nazi’s, the holocaust, the US Army, and even the Quakers- all get involved.
Join me in my journey.
Sarah is the seminary-educated mother of two boys. She and her husband Jason met in seminary, and were the first couple we met when we started attending our church, where Jason was the pastor. Sarah grew up in a military family with two sisters, who are her best friends. She dreams of writing, finding her call in ministry and changing this world one little dark corner at a time. Follow her as she researches her grandparents’ love story at “Tom and Marjorie.” Word has it that she just recently talked to the 90-year-old woman in Berlin who was her Opa’s first kiss.
Since last January, we woke up in the same house (most days) with the same spouse (of course) with the same kids (always), and went about our business. But as it tends to go, that business fell on a sliding scale of adventure and activity … and, well, life.
Some days were lazy. Some days were crazy. There’s no denying there’s always something going on at our house. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Based on our statistics, the entries below were the top 10 most-read blog posts published this year. Thank you to our readers who followed and supported us this year.
We wish all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!
She Who Had No Idea – She looked down on military service. I looked down on unprofessional behavior.
Since I published the first page, I’ve posted more than 1,245 times on three different hosting sites.
If someone read just three of our posts a day, it would take 415 days — that’s 59 weeks, more than a year — to read our entire blog … and that’s if I don’t post new content from this date onward.
When I started our website, I did not think it would evolve into an online documentary of our marriage. It started as a way to keep our family around the globe up-to-speed about our wedding plans. It wasn’t until 9/11 that I realized the opportunity to share a more complete snapshot of our lives, sharing our perspective and thoughts on things in addition to updates and photos.
That’s still the blog’s purpose, even though we know our readership has grown beyond those who know us. And while technology and the whole concept and business of blogging has evolved, I like to think we’ve stayed pretty true to our mission, which is just to share as life carries us forward.
Maybe you have heard about the magazine cover featuring a mom nursing her three-year-old?
I first heard about it on Facebook. Then Julie told me about it. And then we saw things about it on the news and on Saturday Night Live. Apparently, the article was about breastfeeding children beyond the first year and there was also talk of attachment parenting. (We do not read the magazine, so I am only going off what I have seen online about it.) Attachment parenting is something I didn’t even learn about until my wife and I attended the BlogHer ’11 conference last summer for her presentation, and we were asked about it.
I had to Google it once I got some Internet access.
Being a stay-at-home dad, I don’t worry about the labels that get put on moms so much. Nobody cares I always fed my kids with bottles or that I keep vaccination calendars on my cell phone. Dads are lucky in that way that if we bump into each other with our kids, we’re not going to look at each other and wonder if the other uses diapers that are better for the Earth.
I think dads get the opposite of the pressure that is on mothers. I would be surprised if a magazine cover would ever ask if men are “dad enough” because nobody really thinks about it. We kind of get ignored by media, and this is good and bad.
It is good because of the reasons I mentioned. There is no pressure to be a certain way. I just do what I think is best for my kids based upon how I was raised, how I see others raise their kids, how my wife and I have agreed, and what my gut tells me.
Regarding attachment parenting, I’ve always worn my kids in a sling until they get too big, mostly because I like to use my hands and because it is nice to have them there with me. We eat organic food because we think it’s better for our health, but we love Chick-Fil-A and the occasional McDonald’s run. I draw the line at them sleeping with us. I will nap with my children, but at night, I prefer to sleep alone with my wife. While I let my kids dress themselves and make their own decisions on most things, my kids address adults as ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ and say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ I’m not sure what label this sort of thing falls under, but it works for us.
As for the bad side of dads not really getting the spotlight in the media, it is annoying to watch television shows and the dads are always being the clueless guy who gets bossed around by the wife and kids. None of that is real life, of course. But it happens in magazines, too. When Julie was first pregnant, I read a book called “The Expectant Father” and it talked about this very thing, about how dads are perceived in the media and how that reflects in society. I didn’t really believe it, but I did notice this difference after becoming a dad.
Try it out the next time you are watching television, and see how dads are represented. It has gotten much better over the years, but the role of being a dad is still not accurately represented.
It’s not just media. I get it in real life where people make comments to me that they wouldn’t make to my wife, or didn’t make to her when she was stay-at-home. This has more to do with the idea of gender roles in the family more than just the role of being a dad.
I have been asked if it was really hard to leave my military to support my wife’s career. (For the record, it wasn’t.) I get called Mister Mom a lot. (I’m not a Mom. I’m a Mister Dad.) Others talk as if being a stay-at-home dad is a temporary thing or something we were forced to do because of the job market. (For the record, I choose to quit my job at the bank.) I’ve also been asked if it bothers me that my wife brings home the money. (For the record, no. It’s quite nice, actually.)
I realize I talked about a lot of things here, but I guess my whole point to this particular blog piece is that a magazine cover and headline like the one that is making the news is silly because the moms I know are more than enough for their kids. If there was ever a cover like that for dads, it would be just as silly. As parents who love our kids, I think we’re always trying to meet their needs and then give them more than that.
Are we parents enough? I think it is safe to say we are all trying.
I got my TOEFL test results. I got 102 out of 120, which puts me in the top category. My writing score, especially, was great. This means I can now go to any college or university I want, that will take me, of course. Big ‘Thank You’ to those who encouraged me. I was very nervous, but am really glad it’s over and I did well!
And we threw in a little “rickrolling“, too. (You can trust that link. It takes you to the Wikipedia explanation and history of rickrolling.)
Once we decided how we were going to format the video, it was very easy putting it all together, although we couldn’t stop giggling.
We didn’t really know what to expect as we went to bed after publishing.
But we certainly didn’t expect such a jump in our numbers. In fact, it was brought to our attention that our server actually overloaded a few times during the day.
And a funny thing happened: most of those hits came from people who don’t normally read our Julie and Martin blog, or who don’t visit very often! And not only did our regulars visit Julie and Martin to read the news, but they came back to re-read it, or watch the video, again. Probably just to make sure it wasn’t real.
Our post about ending our blog has overloaded our blog server … again. We’ve been getting this screen every now and then since the morning, and in the past few hours, we’ve received a handful of panicked messages from readers who also got this screen and thought we totally went offline without fair warning.
In a clever twist, we realized some truths on the very day when truth is purposely suspended.
Truth #1: Creating a spoof video is pretty darn fun.
Truth #2: Watching the reaction unfold online was highly entertaining.
Truth #3: We felt flashes of guilt whenever someone immediately responded with heartfelt farewell messages before watching the video.
Truth #4: It was all worth it as people got the joke and laughed.
Truth #5: Our readership has the best sense of humor.
Martin and I always hoped that when the time to end this blog arrived, we would know it.
And we know it now. After 10 years, we’ve decided to end our blog. Of course, this may seem sudden, but it’s an idea we’ve been tossing around lately. We realize that we have many loyal readers — many who have been with us for years — and we know we owe you guys an explanation as to why we’re closing up shop.
So, we’ve made a video for you. We hope it’s a video that explains our decision, and reflects on the wonderful ride it’s been for all of us.
Just like we’ve told countless military friends as we’ve moved place to place … this is only goodbye for now.
And for those who are still not sure what all this means, this may also clarify some things HERE.
Maybe you went to high school with me or served in the Air Force with me or know us through our Washington DC circles. Perhaps you just recently started following our story.
To all of you, welcome, and thank you for your votes and support during the whole Parents Magazine voting thing.
If there was ever a time to re-introduce ourselves, though, I think it’s now.
We are Julie and Martin.
We are in charge of a family of five living in the suburbs of Washington D.C.
Though this Julie and Martin blog earned an award for being a mommy blog, it’s really much more than that. It’s roots go all the way back to when most people were still using dial-up and Mark Zuckerberg was still in high school
It’s really an ever-changing, ever-evolving story of us.
How in the world did a blog like this earn an award like that? Especially since we don’t do giveaways or contests or use this blog as income. Especially since he’s not a cowboy and I don’t buy mechanical chickens*, but I did once put a skeleton in his shower stall.
Well, let me start in the very beginning.I was born in Texas, but grew up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio.Martin was born and raised around Nuremberg, Germany.
We met in the summer of 1999 when I was an 18-year-old high school foreign exchange student. I had actually graduated from high school the week before I flew over to Nuremberg, but as the German school system goes on a little longer than the American school system, I was still able to participate in the exchange.
Martin was the friend and classmate of my exchange partner. We met the second night I was there, when a group of us went out on mopeds to the Nuremberg castle. I told him that night I was going to return to the United States and enlist in the Air Force to become a military journalist (public affairs) stationed in Europe. I also told him I was pretty sure we were supposed to meet each other.And I was right about all of it.
Exactly one year later to the day, in June 2000, I landed at Ramstein Air Base as my first duty assignment for the US Air Force. For the next two years, we were this little NATO power couple, as he was then out of school and on his way to becoming a tank commander in the Bunderwehr (the German Army.)Nearly every weekend, we traveled to visit each other and often took short trips to places like Paris, Munich, Salzburg, Brussels, Cologne.
In the spring of 2001, I got orders to my next assignment in Italy and we had a decision to make— do we continue a long-distance relationship or should one of us get out of the military so we can be together? After much discussion, Martin decided he would leave his military career once his time was up, so we got engaged in the spring of 2001 with plans to marry the next year.
I wanted my family to stay connected during my wedding planning, so I started a website called “Julie and Martin.” About 30 of my relatives were flying over for the event, so I also shared travel plans in one location without sending lots of emails, as was the digital communication tool of choice at the turn of the century.
For those first few months, it was all about the bridal party, dresses, location scouting, music, cake … all those fun details brides and grooms (but mostly brides) tend to stress over for the big day. Occasionally, I added an entry that talked about the things Martin and I did outside of wedding planning. Back then, the word “blogging” wasn’t really a part of the vocabulary, but that online journal was the start.
Then 9/11 happened and changed everything. That’s when our wedding site became a way for my family to connect with me as both the American and German military responded to the terrorist attack. I started writing frequently about my job and how life was changing for us so quickly. Despite all the chaos of the previous fall and winter, Martin and I kept our wedding plans and in April 2002, we married in a centuries-old stone church just outside Nuremberg.
After the wedding, our family and friends asked us about the site. They had come to depend on it for updates and photos. Plus, Martin’s family in Germany now wanted a way to keep in touch since we moved to Italy a few months later.
So, I kept writing.
I wrote about life in Italy and our travels around Europe. I wrote about the life as a new parent when our first daughter arrived. Eventually, Martin started contributing to the blog, too, and shared about his life as a stay-at-home parent and semi-pro football player.
Then I ended up getting a great assignment to the Pentagon, which is how we ended up living in the nation’s capital. I got to witness and experience many historical moments there while Martin embraced his financial roots (he had studied finances in Germany) and became a banker. We added another daughter to the mix. We were an active-duty military family until 2009, when I decided to join the Air Force Reserve and be a work-from-home mom while Martin continued working as a banker.
And I kept on writing.
I wrote about going from a dual-working family in a big city to living on one income. About the joy of watching our daughters grow, and the excitement at our son’s arrival. I wrote about my photography, pregnancy, bike-riding and all those simple family moments that mean a lot. We’ve had some really hard times, too: like the time I deployed, or the time I got hit by a drunk driver while pregnant, and all the times we lost loved ones. But we’ve had far more — far, far more — positive things happen in our lives.
And I kept on writing.
A few months ago, we decided to change roles again. I accepted a federal social media job in downtown DC, as well as an Air Force Reserve position back at the Pentagon, and Martin’s now the full-time stay-at-home parent.
We’ve grown and changed throughout the years. This site’s grown and changed, too. We joined up with the BlogHer Publishing Network a few years ago, have been featured in various publications and news outlets, and I’ve given many presentations based on my years as a blogger and social media professional. Our archive over in the sidebar is thick with 10 years of memories and changes. Sometimes, when I have a moment to spare, I pick a random year and go back, reading about days or events that seem as close as yesterday.
Needless to say, over the years, we’ve established a loyal following of readers.
These are friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow bloggers, who come from all walks of life from all corners of the globe. Around the 10-year anniversary of this blog, we posted a survey to find out why our readers liked the blog.
Aside from the curiosity and interest in our lives, people said they enjoy our writing, videos and photography. They think our lives are interesting. They think Martin is hot. (Okay, one person that wasn’t me said that, but I’m sure everyone thinks it.)
The most common response, however, was that people said they can relate to our daily attempts at surviving the trenches of parenthood while working to sustain a marriage built on love as we navigate life’s twists and turns with as much humor and grace as possible.
And I think that’s the appeal. We’re not experts. We’re not celebrities. We’re not particularly well-connected or well-funded or anything that may give us an edge.
We’re just Julie and Martin.
And as long as we’re Julie and Martin, I’ll keep writing.
And thank you for joining us.
*10 points each if you can identify and appreciate these references, my fellow blog readers.
Because it’s awesome. Because life is awesome. Because YOU are awesome.
We got a mention in the March issue of Parents magazine, which is arriving in mailboxes now.
Specifically, the link to our Julie and Martin blog was printed with a line-break in the middle on the top of the Readers Choice blog awards sidebar. It’s next to the feature about the blogs that got the Editor’s Choice awards.
We’re pretty stoked!
To be honest, we didn’t even expect that much of a mention. When I saw that the blogger who earned Editor’s Choice for Best All-Around Mom Blog (and ended up getting a half-page feature with an excerpt and family photo) received a personal phone call from the editors, I had a feeling. Especially since phone numbers were never requested or given in the nomination process, and the other winners (both Readers Choice and Editors Choice) mentioned just an email on their blogs. I suspected that the editors had developed their content months in advance, which is typical for magazines.
And then in our notification email, we were told we were going to be featured in the March issue. However, I got a personal email asking me not to mention that publicly since content is always subject to change, which is also typical. Then we never heard from anyone again. Hence: my assumption the magazine’s focus would be the Editor’s Choice, and not the Reader’s Choice, award winners.
But I was wrong! They listed the Readers Choice winners, too! That Julie and Martin made the magazine at all is pretty rockin’ and reminds us that we owe those who voted, and who award us with their support and readership all the time, a big, heartfelt THANK YOU for being awesome.
Go pick up a Parents Magazine and check out the spread: the blogs featured ARE really good. Especially Tech Savvy Mama. She’s a local DC mom blogger, too.
But before that, you can go check out the other Reader’s Choice winners at the links below. Because they’re pretty awesome, too.